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IVDD Surgery in Dogs: Everything You Should Know

IVDD Surgery in Dogs: Everything You Should Know

While IVDD surgery isn't always needed for dogs suffering from Intervertebral Disc Disease, the condition affects your pooch's ability to walk and surgical treatment is often the best option. IVDD surgeries aim to reduce pain, restore mobility and prevent further problems with the disc. Our Santa Clarita vets explain this treatment option in detail.

What is an Intervertebral Disc?

The intervertebral disc allows for spinal flexibility. Surrounded by a ring of fibrous tissue, this gelatinous inner substance helps cushion the load to the spine whenever your dog is performing activities such as running or jumping. 

What is IVDD in Dogs?

The Intervertebral disc in your dog's neck or back can slip, herniate, rupture or bulge. This condition is described as Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD), and it's often seen in dachshunds, beagles, basset hounds, shih tzus and pekingese. However, it may happen in dogs of any breed or size. 

What Causes IVDD?

Intervertebral Disc Disease is a gradual degenerative process that impacts a dog's spinal cord over a period of time. This age-related disease often progresses undetected. 

The shock-absorbing discs between your dog's vertebrae can gradually start to harden until they are unable to properly cushion the vertebrae. The hardened discs will typically begin to bulge and compress the spinal cord, often damaging the dog's nerve impulses such as those that control the bowel and bladder.

IVDD can cause one or more of the hardened discs to burst and press into the nerves of a dog's spinal cord during a simple jump or bad landing. This can cause pain, potential nerve damage and even paralysis. 

Can a Dog Recover from IVDD Without Surgery?

If a veterinarian has diagnosed your dog with IVDD but your canine companion is still able to walk, non-surgical treatments may be able to help your dog recover from IVDD. That said, if your dog's case of IVDD is severe and they've lost their ability to walk, urgent emergency treatment will be needed. 

Non-surgical treatment for IVDD is also referred to as conservative management or treatment. With non-surgical treatment, we aim to help relieve pain and discomfort, restore lost bowel and bladder control and get your dog standing and walking again. Non-surgical treatments for IVDD in dogs include:

  • Strict Crate Rest - If you are trying to relieve your dog's IVDD symptoms without surgery, strict rest is going to be essential and is going to require patience! Your dog will need to be strictly confined to a small room or crate for least 4 weeks in order to give the dog's body sufficient time to try and mend the damage.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Medications - Non-surgical treatment of IVDD in dogs will likely include steroid and anti-inflammatory medications to help reduce pain and swelling. These medications are used in conjunction with restricted activity and crate-rest.
  • Dietary Care - Your vet will carefully calculate the precise number of calories required by your pet in order to manage weight and help to prevent added pressure on their spine.
  • Physical Rehabilitation (Physical Therapy) - A rehabilitation practitioner will assess your dog's current condition and recommend a treatment plan which will include a combination of at-home treatments and professional treatment. Rehab can work wonders for pets suffering from mild to moderate cases of IVDD, as well as those recovering from surgery.

Surgical Treatment of IVDD

Surgery is considered the best, and in some cases the only, treatment for severe cases of IVDD in dogs. The goal of IVDD surgery is to remove the diseased intervertebral disc material in order to relieve the pressure on your dog's spinal cord, restore normal blood flow, and prevent disc problems in the future. In order to achieve this goal a combination of surgeries may be used to treat dogs with IVDD.

For this type of surgery, your veterinarian at Sweetwater Veterinary Clinic can refer you to an orthopedic veterinary specialist near Santa Clarita. We will work closely with your veterinary surgeon to ensure your pet receives the best possible care. We also commit to supporting you and your pet's needs after the procedure with continued preventive and ongoing veterinary care. 

Which surgeries are used to treat your dog's IVDD will largely depend upon the location of the diseased disc. There are a number of different IVDD surgeries including hemilaminectomy, laminectomy, fenestration and ventral slot. In some cases a vertebral stabilization (fusion) procedure may also be recommended, especially in large breed dogs. 

IVDD Surgery Success Rates

Surgery is typically very successful in the majority of cases. Outcomes are most successful in dogs that have not lost their ability to walk. In dogs that have had ongoing symptoms of IVDD atrophy of the spinal cord can occur and lead to less successful outcomes.

If IVDD surgery is not successful in returning your pet to normal mobility, a dog wheelchair can help your pup to enjoy a happy and active life while living with Intervertebral Disc Disease. Recovery from IVDD surgery requires 6 - 8 weeks of restricted activity combined with appropriate medications to help with pain management and swelling. Your vet may also recommend physical rehabilitation (physical therapy for dogs) to help your pet recover.

What Does IVDD Surgery Cost?

Costs for IVDD surgery for dogs range widely depending on the size of the dog, as well as testing and appointments your pooch will need prior to surgery. They may also require X-rays and other imaging techniques. Your veterinary specialist can provide a cost estimate for your dog's procedure.  

Should I consider euthanasia for my dog with severe IVDD?

If you're the pet parent of a dog that has been diagnosed with severe IVDD you are likely facing some very difficult questions regarding treatment for your beloved pet. Your vet will be sure to explain the treatment options that are available, and the likely outcome for each. Caring for a dog that is recovering from IVDD can be time-consuming whether you opt for surgical or non-surgical treatment.

Every pet is different and your dog's prognosis will depend on a number of factors including your dog's age, the severity of the spinal injury, where on the spine the injury is located, and the length of time between symptoms appearing and treatment.

Your vet will carefully and compassionately explain your dog's likelihood of recovery so that you are able to make an informed treatment decision. If you are considering euthanasia for your dog following an IVDD diagnosis, speak to your vet openly and honestly, they have been trained to help you make the best decision for you and your pet.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Dogs your dog need IVDD surgery? Contact our Santa Clarita vets today to book an examination for your canine friend. We can refer you to a veterinary specialist who can perform the procedure. 

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Sweetwater Veterinary Clinic is accepting new patients! Our friendly and experienced vets are passionate about the health of Santa Clarita companion animals and horses. Get in touch today to book your four-legged friend's first appointment.

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